More often than not, my holiday season celebrations would end with a mountain of wrapping paper and packaging. As a kid, this pile was my west coast version of fall leaves: perfect to jump into with a crunchy splash. But, inevitably, after a few jumps and a few failed attempts to gift-wrap my cat, it would all end in the trash. Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, which ends in our landfills or clogging our waterways.
As I have grown up, my family, friends, and I have been striving to create more sustainable holiday and gift giving traditions. Unlike work or school, our role as environmental stewards does not take vacation time. For many, the holiday season is a time of reflection, generosity, and thankfulness. All of those values fit wonderfully with environmental stewardship.
Here are a few idea of how to reduce our impact on the environment during this holiday season, and to continue our efforts as stewards:
- Get creative with the wrapping. Wrap gifts in newspaper, reusable cloth or scarves, and reuse ribbon. Look to nature for extra ornamentation such as sprigs with berries. If every American used re-usable materials for just three presents this season, we would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields!
- Give to organizations serving your community. Most organizations, including The Watershed Project, accept dedicated donations. Giving to a charity that a loved one values is a gift both to your friends and family, but to the community as a whole. The Watershed Project even offers dedicated trees for those seeking to green their local community.
- Give gifts of experience or service. Think beyond material gifts, and instead consider giving experiences such as museum passes, movie tickets, or cooking classes. Or, consider giving a skill: babysitting for a night out or cooking a special meal.
- Go local! The energy involved in shipping goods across the country, and even oceans, can make that one little gift have a big carbon footprint. Check out local artists, farms, and businesses to not only economically support our local community but also reduce our environmental impact.
- Seek out gifts with less packaging. While shopping for gifts, think about the packaging. If possible, opt for less packaging and plastic that ends up in our landfills, streets, and waterways.
No matter what, let’s enjoy our amazing natural spaces outside (especially in the rain!) and give thanks to our watersheds over the New Year!